Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Herding of the Goats

The 5th(!) Annual Herding of the Goats onto the Balds took place Wednesday June 20.  #610's 3-day old kid (born on Father's Day) got special treatment and was carried by 2 grandkids out to Jane Bald where the first paddock is located.  

The day went well with 1 exception:  2 goats (#215 & #709) turned left / north on the Jane Bald ascent and didn't make it to the top.  I suspect the volunteers spooked them when they tried to get them back on the trail.  Luckily, they found their way back to their friends and are now safely back with the herd.  Thanks to Bill Barksdale for capturing the special day on camera! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 Update

We are gearing up for the 5th(!) Annual Herding of the Goats onto the Balds which is set for Wed June 20, meeting at Carvers Gap at 8-8:30a.m.  If you would like to join us then please bring some water, snacks, and be prepared for weather, sun, and uneven terrain (wear closed-toe shoes or boots with ankle support).

The goats spent what little winter we had in Shady Valley, TN.  We lost some of the goats due to accident (#810), old age (#’s 99, 216, 226, & 1002), and even a bear attack (#1609).  Bears are an occasional problem due to the goats’ winter home being located in an official bear reserve.  With previous losses, this leaves us with perhaps half to two-thirds of the goats that have been on the balds still with us.  We were excited about kidding season but few survived, likely due in part to the bear problem and nervousness, but we still hope to have 2 young goats up top that have never been on the balds.

Also this winter, we did data analysis on the four-year “goat browse vs. no goat browse” vegetation study plots and started a manuscript for publication.  The results are very encouraging.  There are a few loose ends to sort out this summer including the identity of a native bent-grass that may be undescribed.  If it turns out to be new to science then I hope to propose the name Agrostis roanensis (Roan Bent-grass) which would make it the 4th plant named for Roan in its scientific species name.  The others are Carex roanensis (Roan Sedge), Solidago roanensis (Roan Goldenrod), and Prenanthes roanensis (Roan Rattlesnake Root – currently being studied by Melissa, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Virginia - Charlottesville).

Russell Ingram, an ETSU Biology graduate student under the direction of Dr. Frosty Levy, continues to investigate the rare Gray’s Lily and a fungal disease that is causing it significant problems at least on Roan.  Two ETSU undergraduate honors students, Adam McCullough and Stephen Lay, are doing complementary investigations with various aspects including field work and examining lily herbarium specimens looking for historic evidence of the fungus to determine whether or not it has been around for a long time compared to the possibility of it having been introduced from Europe in more recent times.  Among these lily specimens is at least 1 collected by Asa Gray himself on Roan more than a 100 years ago.  Gray’s Lily already has serious problems without adding a fungal pest to the list… 

Katie Quillin, another ETSU biology graduate student under the direction of Dr. Fred Alsop, is doing a breeding distribution and abundance survey for the rare Alder Flycatcher on Roan’s western balds (Carvers Gap out to Grassy Ridge).  While we know this bird likes thickets, including blackberry thickets, she hopes to better describe its preferred nesting habitat including its association with Roan’s unique Southern Appalachian Alder Bald which occurs nowhere else in the world.  The Green Alder that forms the Alder Bald is a long range disjunct:  Roan’s Green Alder is more than 300 miles south of the nearest Green Alder in Pennsylvania.

ETSU Geosciences folks got interested in Roan’s balds last year when Zachary Dinkins, under the direction of Dr. Arpita Nandi, sampled the grassy, rhododendron, and alder bald soils.  Significant differences were found (alders are nitrogen fixers) and a manuscript is being prepared for publication.  We hope another student will continue the investigation this summer.

Most weekend goatherding dates are now taken but other volunteer opportunities remain including herding the goats on and off the balds, toting lots of equipment and water, and maybe some weekday goatherding shifts late in the summer.

Happy Trails to you, jamey